Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

Parliamentary Ombudsman: “Illegal to routinely search prisoners”

Published 28 November 2023
- By Editorial Staff
There must be good reasons for searching prisoners, says the ombudsman.

According to Sweden’s Parliamentary Ombudsman (JO), there is no support in the prison act for “routine” strip searches of prisoners or regular checks of their cells for prohibited items.

The ombudsman is now urging the prison and probation service to “review its policies and procedures in this area to ensure that they comply with the law”.

Last summer, five prisoners at Salberga Institution in Sala filed a complaint with the ombudsman against the prison and probation service, complaining that inmates were systematically strip-searched when their rooms were inspected – prompting the ombudsman to open an investigation.

The ombudsman points out that within the prison and probation service, so-called “security searches” of inmates are often carried out in order to find dangerous and unauthorized items – and that this is the purpose of the strip searches.

“In the decision, the ombudsman concludes that there is no legal support in the prison act for the routine body searches of inmates for the purpose of searching for unauthorized objects during the ongoing checks of their cells”, the report states.

The principle of proportionality

“As far as I can understand, the staff at the Salberga facility have acted in accordance with the Prison and Probation Service’s Security Manual, and I assume that searches of the present type are or may be carried out in all the Service’s facilities. Against this background, it is important, in my view, that the Prison and Probation Service review its instructions and procedures in this area to ensure that they comply with the law”, the ombudsman continues.

The ombudsman notes that a “careful assessment” is required in each individual case where a strip search may be relevant and that it should not be carried out routinely. The principle of proportionality must also be taken into account, including the likelihood of actually finding a prohibited item during the search.


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